Glad Tidings: A Celebration of Christmas

Admission: First floor FREE. Additional Activities: $5 Adults, $3 Seniors/Students with I.D. FREE for members/children 4 and under.

Visitors to Glencairn Museum in Bryn Athyn can learn how Christians around the world have adapted the Nativity scene to represent their own cultures through a new exhibit featuring more than 30 crèches from 20 countries.

The “Glad Tidings” event also includes a Christmas quest where children will search the museum’s permanent collection for images from the Christmas story, including the Holy Family, angels, shepherds and the Three Wise Men, and will feature a performance by “The Never B Flats,” an a cappella group from Bryn Athyn College. Visitors also can take a cell-phone audio tour of Glencairn - a museum of religious art and history housed in a nine-story Romanesque-style castle - shop for goods offered by Ten Thousand Villages, and relax at the Castle Café. Ten Thousand Villages is an international group that assists Third World artisans by providing fair-trade income for their wares. Items will include crèches, Christmas decorations, jewelry and gifts.

“Follow the Star: The Tradition of the Crèche,” which features Nativity sets from five continents, will make its debut from 1 to 5 p.m. Dec. 6as part of Glencairn’s “Glad Tidings: A Celebration of Christmas.” The crèches will continue to be on exhibit daily through Saturday, Dec. 12.

The three-dimensional Nativities, displayed at various locations throughout Glencairn, complement the museum’s collection of Nativity art dating from medieval times through the early 20th century. Glencairn plans to display the crèches each Christmas.

“We are collecting from a broad variety of countries to illustrate how Christians around the world have adapted the tradition of the crèche to their own national, regional and local cultures,” said Museum Curator Ed Gyllenhaal. “Almost all of our sets are made from local materials, and they exhibit regionally distinctive clothing, animals and structures.”

The Glencairn collection includes crèches made in countries traditionally associated with production of Nativity sets, such as Germany, Italy, Poland and Latin America. It also includes some made in countries typically not associated with crèches, such as Laos, Nepal, Egypt and Ethiopia.

Gyllenhaal’s favorite?

“I’m fascinated by the dozens of ceramic fèves from France,” he said. “For more than a hundred years, a small ceramic figure called a fève has been secretly placed in the ‘Kings’ Cake’ on Epiphany, a holiday celebrated to commemorate the arrival of the wise men (“three kings”) at Bethlehem. The lucky one who gets the fève in his or her slice is pronounced king or queen for the day and gets to wear a paper crown.”

Gyllenhaal said the fève originally represented one of the Nativity’s central figures of baby Jesus, Mary or Joseph. As time went on, however, all the characters in a typical French village were made to be included in the scene. “Everyone from the mayor to the fishmonger turns out for the Christmas miracle,” he said.

Admission to the museum’s first floor is free. On the first floor visitors can view many of the crèches and a 30-minute video, “Nativity: The Art and Spirit of the Creche.” Activities include family origami and coloring projects and the Castle café, provided by the House of Coffee in Peddlers Village, Lahaska, Pa. Admission to the other activities, including the Ten Thousand Villages sale, is: $5; $3 for seniors and students with I.D.; free for museum members and children under 4. “Follow the Star: The Tradition of the Creche,” will be on exhibit daily through Saturday, Dec. 12.

Glencairn, 1001 Cathedral Rd., Bryn Athyn, is a National Historic Landmark. For more information call 267-502-2600. 

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